It's been a good year for Karlos Balderas.
The Santa Maria native scored his second knockout win of the year as his career resurgence ended 2021 on another high note.
Balderas, fighting in Las Vegas for the first time as a pro, scored a fourth-round TKO over Ecuadorian veteran Julio Cortez Saturday night on the undercard of the Terrance Crawford-Shawn Porter main event.
Balderas fought twice in 2021 after not fighting at all in 2020 and ended both his bouts with impressive knockouts.
Balderas is the first fighter to score a knockout win over Cortez, who fell to 15-4 in his pro career. Cortez has scored 11 KOs as a pro, but couldn't touch Balderas. The Santa Maria High grad and 2016 U.S. Olympian is now 11-1 in his career with 10 KOs. Balderas suffered the only loss of his pro career in December of 2019; a knockout defeat at the hands of Juan Rene Tellez-Giron. He did not fight in 2020, returning to the ring in August of 2021.
Balderas knocked out Fidel Cervantes in the second round then. He opted to get in another fight this year, his second under the Top Rank banner.
In Saturday's bout, which was broadcast by ESPN, Balderas dominated Cortez, landing bunches of power shots and forcing referee Raul Caiz Jr. to stop the fight in the fourth. Balderas started a crisp combination with a strong right uppercut, followed with a quick left jab and a sharp right, forcing Caiz to stop the fight with 48 seconds left in the round.
Balderas changed promoters in 2020, switching from Ringstar to Top Rank. He also added a new trainer in Buddy McGirt, basing his training in the Los Angeles area. Balderas is also trained by Jacob Duran and his uncle, David Balderas, who's a teacher at Santa Maria High School.
The 5-foot-9 Balderas, 25, had a major size and reach advantage over Cortez, a 33-year-old who checked in at 5-foot-5 with a 65-inch reach. Balderas' reach is 73 inches. They each weighed in at about 131.5 pounds on Friday ahead of the scheduled six-round fight.
In the main event, Terence "Bud" Crawford knocked out "Showtime" Shawn Porter in the 10th round to retain his WBO welterweight world title in front of a sold-out crowd of 11,568 at Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Crawford (38-0, 29 KOs) made the fifth defense of the title he won in June 2018 and was presented with the stiffest test of his career. Porter (31-4-1, 17 KOs), who has fought every elite welterweight of this era, made things uncomfortable in the ring.
"(I figured him out in) Round 1," Crawford said. "I figured that I had the reach and he had to take chances, and he did what he normally does. He tried to maul and push me back, but I used my angles and I pushed him back at times as well. Shawn Porter is a slick fighter. He was doing some things in there and made me think.
"I love him. Shawn Porter is a real good friend of mine. I didn’t really want to fight him. We always said we would fight each other when the time was right and I guess the time was right for this fight to happen. I tried to fight the other champions in the division, and that didn’t happen, so I went to the next best thing."
Porter led 48-47 on all three scorecards after five rounds, but Crawford took control in the second half of the fight. After a dominant ninth round, Crawford scored a pair of knockdowns, and Porter's trainer and father, Kenny Porter, stopped the fight.
"My timing was off and he wouldn’t allow me to get my rhythm," Porter said. "He’s the best out of everybody I have been in the ring with."